Everyone knows by now that the University of California is undergoing a major budget crisis --- at least that is what the UC leadership want to claim. The total budget for the UCs runs at approximately 19 Billion dollars --- about 3 Billion of which usually comes from the state and which the state is cutting down to 2.63 Billion for 2009-2010. (link)
As protesters at various levels within the UC, from students to staff to faculty, have pointed out, those cuts don't look like a lot when figured into the overall operating budget, especially considering so much of the cuts are going where they directly hurt students the most (besides the fee increases, courses usually taught by adjuncts are being cut completely and those by tenured faculty are being reorganized into large lecture classes. I hear things about how my former department, for example, is trying to figure out the feasibility of switching upper division courses into large lecture format with TAs, and eliminating TAs from the lower-division courses. Imagine, if you please, a Shakespeare course in the largest auditorium you can find graded solely by scantrons and clickers! The mind boggles.).
The UC administration, on its part, argues in a PDF titled "The UC Budget Myths and Facts" (I can't find a direct link, see the download page here) that most of these revenues are restricted and can't be transferred across categories, or, as it so bluntly sums up, "A federal grant for laser beam research can't be used to fund a deficit in the English department." As if English departments, which funnel large numbers of students through the university and have low operating expenses are the problem here.
Having drummed up a huge level of anxiety across the state for months now, garnered numerous national headlines and attention from all the major news sources, the UC --- lead by President Mark Yudoff, about whom I have ranted already here --- announced a tiered system of furloughs:
These cuts and furloughs have also garnered campus protest, although not nearly enough. Is it any surprise this is coming over the summer, when the only students here are taking 4 and 5 intensive summer courses per session so that they can afford to graduate?
UC President Mark Yudof has proposed using the following formula to close an $813 million gap in state funding.
40 percent -- Campus layoffs and program cuts statewide
25 percent -- Student fee increases
25 percent -- Employee furloughs
10 percent -- Restructuring debt and other cost controls
Yudof's plan for furlough days would be progressive, meaning lower-paid employees would experience a lower percentage of furlough days and lower percent of lost income compared to high wage earners. Here's Yudof's proposal:
$40,000 and under -- 11 furlough days -- 4 percent of income
$40,001-$46,000 -- 13 furlough days -- 5 percent of income
$46,001-60,000 -- 16 furlough days -- 6 percent of income
$60,001-$90,000 -- 18 furlough days -- 7 percent of income
$90,001-$180,000 -- 21 furlough days -- 8 percent of income
$180,001-$240,000 -- 24 furlough days -- 9 percent of income
$240,000 and above -- 26 furlough days -- 10 percent of income
Source: UC Office of the President
So I'm looking at this whole situation, knowing that the majority of the regents were appointed by our Republican Governor Arnold, and looking at the appointment of Yudoff, who some people argued at the time deserved his enormously bloated salary because he was brought in to do the unenviable job of being a hatchet man (hatcheting who, I'd ask now, because the majority of the top-level positions he promised to eliminate never got eliminated), I say, I'm looking at this whole situation and wondering exactly how much of a conspiracy is going on here.
Is this just a classic instance of the Republican playbook for privatization, or maybe following Grover Norquist's plan to starve the beast until government is small enough to drown in the bathtub? Was all this strategized out long in advance? I mean, I know Republican ideology is that only people who can pay for things for themselves are worthy of being supported in any way and that paying for services is better than public services, but this way of thinking is so foreign to me I can't understand why anyone would want. Especially for a public university system. Wealthy Republicans in CA who don't want the stink of public school on em have Stanford and USC in arm's reach if that's what they're after.
After all, no sooner did the Regents vote Yudoff his emergency powers (maybe this is the Bush 9-11 playbook) and he implemented these furloughs and cuts and student fee hikes, this and this were announced:
On the same July day that the UC Board of Regents cut $813 million from UC budgets - setting in motion pay cuts, layoffs and campus cutbacks - the board quietly approved pay raises, stipends and other benefits for more than two dozen executives.and then this too:
The cash-strapped University of California - forced to lay off employees, cut pay and offer fewer classes because of deep cuts in state funding - has now agreed to lend the state nearly $200 million.